LUBBOCK — It was painful enough for Texas Tech and head coach Tommy Tuberville to suffer another devastating loss at home on Saturday to No. 18 Oklahoma State, 34-17, but in the middle of the shellacking was an even more painful realization — more injuries.
Tech (3-3, 1-3 Big 12) must find a way to regroup its defense, offense and special teams all in one week before heading to Boulder on Saturday to take on Colorado — also sitting at 3-3 with a sense of urgency after losing at home to Baylor, 31-25.
The Red Raiders have also never won at Folsom Field, losing all four contests dating back to 1981.
Among the injuries are receiver Austin Zouzalik (leg), safety Franklin Mitchem (knee), defensive lineman Aundrey Barr (knee), lineman Chris Perry (leg), defensive back Will Ford (hamstring) and linebacker Sam Fehoko (knee), among others.
Add in the suspension of Scott Smith for the rest of the season and Tuberville is in a spot where he can ill-afford to keep many redshirts.
"We've got some guys, young guys, that are going to have to step up and play better on defense," Tuberville said on Tuesday. "Offensively, we have several guys that are going to have to go through the week without contact and try to get healthy for Saturday's game."
Those younger players include linebacker Tahrick Peak and defensive end Chris Knighton. Both freshmen, Knighton has yet to play and Peak lost his redshirt on Saturday to fill in for an injured player. Tuberville said safety/linebacker Tre Porter is another freshman coming along nicely but just needs to keep improving.
Safety Brett Dewhurst will continue playing in Mitchem's spot after Tuberville Mitchem as "getting closer, but a little bit farther away than what we would like at this point."
Tech senior quarterback Taylor Potts will be back under center on Saturday after sustaining what he called a "sprained jaw" he suffered from a helmet to chin hit during the loss to the Cowboys. Potts was X-rayed at halftime and checked for a concussion but never missed a snap on the field. He also went to a local hospital in an ambulance immediately after the game to be further evaluated.
Potts has been at practice each day this week.
Backup quarterback Steven Sheffield is also doing better after sitting out with a shoulder injury against Oklahoma State. Sheffield was brought in for one play at receiver as a "decoy" but was back taking snaps at practice on Tuesday — both under center and at wide receiver.
"I think he likes receiver. He can catch. I'm trying to get him to move over to linebacker or free safety," Tuberville said with a laugh. "He's a good athlete."
But maybe playing Sheffield at wide receiver could be a good thing. Something has to help Tech's offense get back on track and be more consistent than just one or two drives during a game. Dropped passes, missed assignments and a "lack of concentration," has held Tech to less than 17 points and 400 yards in two of its three losses this season.
And again it was another slow start to Saturday's loss, going three-and-out on the first three drives.
Colorado will surely try to take advantage of any slow start by Tech and jump on top much like the Buffaloes did in 2006, the last time Tech visited Boulder.
That was Graham Harrell's first season and the struggling QB had many Tech fans chanting for backup Chris Todd at times during the first part of the season — including that CU game where Todd actually came in and replaced Harrell for the first two series of the second half, but did not have any more success.
The battery-throwing Buffs crowd got in the heads of plenty of Tech players that day as Tech lost, 30-6, dropping to 4-3 and giving that Colorado team its first win under Dan Hawkins after starting the season 0-6.
"We know what we've got in store for us in Boulder," Tuberville said. "We're going to have to play a lot more physical game than what we played on Saturday."